Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

The Changing Consumer

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

6 days ago World Class Beverages made an interesting post on their blog about some craft brewers esentially claiming the market is too over saturated. It’s an interesting post and worth a read. In fact, the replies are more interesting then the article. As usual Greg Koch and his fanboys rode in on their high horse blaiming everyone for their problems and pushing their ideoligies. I remember when he did that to my blog. This time though it seems to have backfired on Greg as the majority aren’t taking his side. Have people wised up? This isn’t what I wanted to talk about though. I want to talk about a comment on the post by JJ.

“I find it odd that the new breed of brewers feel the need to establish nationwide distribution. Isn’t that what led us down the path to begin with? The rally cry of the Craft Brewer’s Association used to be “Support Your Local Brewery.” Somewhere along the line, either the message changed, or someone missed the original memo.”

His comment seems to be right along the lines of something that has begun bothering me recently. Breweries are changing, but so are their customers. Doing research on the history of brewing you get a general idea of what customer base drank what beer. Before the early days of craft brewing anyone who thought they knew anything about good beer drank imported beer. Even in the 50’s there were people with low opinions of American beer. Back during the hippie movement there was a big rise in the artisinal movement as well. People, especially on the west coast, began doing things themselves that corporations had done for them in the 40’s. This movement saw home brewing move from a moonshine style business to a more artisinal aproach.

These early artisinal homebrewers were also the early craft beer drinkers. They started a movement that focosed on drinking local beer produced by people you knew. Slowly though artisinal has become craft, and the customers are no longer just the local homebrewers. There has been alot of talk about the wineification of beer, but less attention has been paid to the fact that as craft beer proliferates the customer base has become more diverse. Now your seeing what the Doc calls beer cheerleaders. People who drink craft beer because it’s craft beer. You have the beeradvocate crowd, wandering from release to release. You have beer snobs purchasing only the best. As brewers try to reach all these people at once how will it change the market? We seem to be moving more towards a model of limited releases and large lineups rather then the old model of a flagship and 4 or 5 year to year seasonals. Is this a direction we want to go?

Beware The Squeal

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A while ago Jeff over at Beervana had a post about a beer brewed with Apricot stone fruits called Everything But The Squeal. Interestingly the beer in question received more criticisms then praise from the readers. That’s because the fruit of apricot pits contains a chemical called amygdalin. This chemical is present in most fruit seeds including apples, and normally passes through your body tucked safely away in the seeds protective coating. However when you boil the seeds, open them up, or eat them this chemical is processed by your body and turned into cyanide. The FDA hasn’t thoroughly researched this chemical though, so the degree to which cooking eliminates amygdalin and the dosage at which it becomes lethal is debated. There’s no doubt though that some people are concerned. With the increasing use of alternative flavorings and herbs in beer though just how much are we exposing ourselves to “bad” or “dangerous” chemicals?

Within the alternative medacine community there seems to be a view that as long as it’s a plant it has to be better then the stuff you get from the pharmacy. What with all those nasty side effects of medicines it has to be true. Sadly many herbs contain similar or same chemicals that are found in some drugs. This means brewers should be paying close attention to interactions between plant chemicals, the way the body processes some chemicals, and the effect boiling in wort can have on the chemicals. Instead though many brewers just toss in the herbs without a lot of regard to this. Luckily for us the side effects of some herbs like sweet gale are over exaggerated and like the amygdalin in Cascades “white port/raspberry/apricot seed beer” are present in low enough levels for the body to process.

Just for fun here are some beer ingrediants that are considered dangerous or have known adverse side effects.

Ginko Biloba – Not very common, but you occasionally hear of one off beers brewed with it.

Ginsing – Oregon Trails Ginsing Porter pops to mind first.

Liquorice root – Common in dark heavy stouts, winter warmers, and sometimes barlywines.

Fruit seeds – Contain amygdalin. Cascade is the only one I’ve heard of actually brewing with seeds.

Sweet Gale – Reported in old brewing texts to be narcotic

Sassafras – traditional flavoring for root beer and some herbal beers. considered a carcinogen

Corks Are Evil!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

I know the Doc doesn’t like these diary style posts, but I’m tired, cranky, and hating my new bottle corker.

Back in August I made a wine from all the extra summer squash in the garden. The final recipe looked something like this.

21 lbs of squash
10lbs of sugar
1/4 cup peppercorns
1 can of Grape Concentrate
2 tbl black tea leaves
And alot of orange and lemon slices

The resulting wine is interesting to say the least, and tonight was the night I bottled this interesting concoction.

Thinking I’d try to make my wine look nice I decided to bottle most of it in 750ml Champagne bottles and 12oz green bottles and cork all of them. Doug at Homebrew Heaven store made corking sound easy after all. “The synthetic corks slide into the bottle fairly easy,” he said. Well here I am 1.5 hours later smelling like a Frenchman.

I easily spilt a 12oz bottle worth of wine on myself, sweated like a pig, and my hands are killing me. All in all though I’m happy with the final product. Now I just have to rack these bottles for awhile to let the wine mellow. That pepper flavor is a bit intense.

The Research Continues

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I hope this is the last of my filler posts for a bit. When school starts back up for Rachel this next week I’ll have more time to write. Also with the clients back in their programs they’re calmer and therefore I can write during brief breaks at work. Still wont have internet though.


I’ve been doing some more research on the origins of the IPA, and the more I research the more things I begin to understand about export beer.

Often when we discuss beer we view it through a lens tainted by our modern beer. We either assume that people in the 1800’s could, and did, produce consistent high quality beer using technology they didn’t even have, or we assume they needed some magical ingredient or method to make good beer. We often forget that tastes were different then, and also forget to factor in the flavor properties aging hoppy beers imparts. We live in a time when it’s all about fresh from the brite tank, highly hopped, high alcohol beers. If we step were to step into the 1800’s though we’d get a much different view from people about what beer was.

In order to understand the IPA it helps if we look at domestic Strong Ales of the time. Strong Ales were brewed both in the US and in Britain. In fact Capitol Taps (He doesn’t get enough link love from me) found an interesting article on a bottle of Strong Ale unearthed while workers excavated on Mission St in Salem. Apparently the bottle was discovered in 1909, and workers described the bottle as sound and having gained in quality. The article also states the bottle was at least 20 years old. If this is the case it shows that strong ales were not just an export beer brewed in Britain for the India market.

Another development is an email I got from a drinker in the UK. He recommended some books on the matter, but also mentioned that in hopping records from the time most beers for export at various places around the world were heavily hopped, not just IPA’s. They also mentioned that many beers at the time were apparently drunk aged, not young like most people assume. If IPA’s were in fact ment to be aged, and not drunk when they hit India’s shores, then this would greatly change the view of the IPA myth. The high hops in IPA’s would be less of a unique transport feature specific to the India market and more of a flavor issue. This would also strengthen the connection many people make between maltier “October Ales” and the IPA.

Welcome to ’10

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I wish this was a review of Widmer’s ’10, then I could rant about this stupid black IPA fad. Sadly this is one of those obligatory New Years posts, and it’s threefold

’09 in review

Last year I was approached by Paul about writing for him, and started blogging about beer. Prior to all this beer was a much smaller part of my life. Once I started writing though it required I learn something. I delved into books on beer and brewing, especially history. The more I’ve learned about beer though the more it has changed my view of beer. This year saw the change from beer cheerleader to a more narrow view of Oregon’s beer scene. This last year I also joined Capitol Brewers (Salem’s homebrewing club) and was able to network more then ever before with not only Salem’s homebrewers, but also with Willamette Valley brewers who are located outside of the Portland area.

Looking Ahead

I’ve been asked many times by Dr Wort about what I want this blog to become. The problem is I’ve wanted my readers to participate in that. I’d love if you guys would contribute and make this blog yours. Ask questions, send me articles, send in pictures. You guys see things and hear things I don’t. To help encourage this I’m going to push the ads for schwag a bit harder. Try to get breweries and pubs to give away stuff via this blog. Speaking of that I need to get to the pub more. I’ve always been a bottled beer guy. I prefer drinking at home with a few close friends or family. Also bottled beer gets aged the way I want. Still pub culture is something to be enjoyed, not avoided. I need to remember that.

My other goal is to take the all grain plunge. I’ve never had the space or equipment to do all grain, but in order to take my beer to the next level I have to start tweaking grains more. I’ve experimented with herbs probably to the greatest extant I can. Sure there are more beer styles to explore with, and more herbs to try, but there wont be vast improvements to be gained in that department anymore.

Bottom Of The Belgian

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009


There are some beers that are supposed to be crystal clear with low yeast flavors, and there are others that should be be loaded with some strong funky yeast esthers. The problem is though that many great beers are bottled in 22oz bombers and the slightly larger 750ml bottles. While writing my review of Long strange tripel I was reminded of this problem. One of my complaints was not enough yeast flavor. By the time I hit the bottom of the bottle where the yeast was in suspension though the beer was fairly opaque and funky. The problem with this is that the first drink lacked a strong yeast flavor, and the last to much.

Therefor I hereby submit that contrary to the American fad of 22oz bombers, good beer should be bottled in 12oz bottles. This allows the drinker to swirl the yeast back into suspension before drinking if they choose, and also allows the drinker to taste multiple bottles in a single session. Another side effect of good beer being bottled in 12oz would be that a beer like a imperial stout or Belgian saison could easily be consumed during a lunch break without a worry. Sadly though more and more breweries are releasing their unique beers in only 750ml and 22oz. Can anyone explain why breweries do this??? It makes absolutley no sense to me other then a marketing standpoint.

What is a Seasonal

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

It seems more and more that the seasonal lineup is no longer consisting of a fixed set of beers. For example spring used to be dominated by Mai Bocks and beers generally of a lighter nature. Not as thick and alcoholic as winter beers, but not as thin as a good lawnmower beer. Something slightly hoppy but loaded with some bright floral and herbal/pine notes. Now though you get IPA’s, stouts, imperials beers, and hefeweizens year around. With brewers releasing non typical seasonals seasonally how does one begin to define what a seasonal beer is?

Take winter seasonals. over the past 40ish years you’ve had a fairly standard roll out from brewers. Barlywines, spiced beers, winter warmers, milk stouts, and some herbals were the standard into the 90’s. An occasional brewers would release Russian stouts (Imperial stouts) nutty beers or chocolate porters. These last 10 years though the traditional winter beers are becoming rarer. More and more in the Northwest overhopped imperial reds and IPA’s are becoming a common winter release. These winter beers have a sweeter heavier malt base and loads of hops. Especially the more piney flavored hops. Much more in your face then their other seasonal cousins.

So the question becomes how do we determine the difference between a seasonal and a limited release now? Is the idea of seasonals outdated? If seasonals are an outdated idea then how do we define what makes a good winter/spring/summer/fall beer? Are we no longer looking for a gullet warming thick malty brew for those cold January evenings? What about a nice hoppy low alcohol beer for those hot August nights?

Honost Pints In Salem

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Yesterday I received an email from both Jack Box and Leslie Venti letting me know that Venti’snow serves bona fide honest pints. Venti’s blog says the following.

From Friday, 27 November 2009, Venti’s are serving beer in 20 ounce glassware with the cartoon rooster’s pointing index finger marking the 16 ounce volume level. A ‘True Pint’ pour line. A documenting image has been sent to the administrators so that Venti’s Cafe & Basement Bar will be certified as a Purveyor of an Honest Pint and appear on website’s list and map

Apparently Venti’s has always had 16 oz glassware (who knew?) but a true pint pour depended on your server and left no room for some head. While I don’t really care to much about glassware and all it’s still kinda neat to think Venti’s will make Beervana’s page. Interestingly enough Venti’s was a little slower in getting honest pours then ƒ/stop. From the get go Kirk has been serving up imperial pints for the same price as Venti’spints. Granted ƒ/stop doesn’t have the selection, and I’m pretty sure none of us purveyors of Kirks pub care to get it certified.

Congrats to Dino, Thane, Leslie, JR and the entire Venti’s crew on the new glassware.


A Most Competent Thane

Friday, November 13th, 2009

vtweetLast night I finally got around to doing some footwork on the best beer in Salem project. I got off work, ran by the store, and then it was off to La Capitale to check out their beer selection. Upon arriving though I found out their bar closes at 9:30 on weeknights. I got a chance to talk with the bartender (can’t remember his name right now as last nights bar hopping washed it from my memory)  and discuss how he goes about choosing his taps. Overall the selection wasn’t Venti’s, but he does keep imports and some decent American beers on tap. In fact there was a saison that I wanted to try. Alas they were closed though so I figured it was time to start checking out other bars.

The next stop on my list was Browns Town where I was hoping to talk with whoever chooses their beers. On the way there though I passed Venti’s and figured I’d stop in for a pint before continuing. This was the undoing of my plan. Turns out Thane was bartending, and although we’ve met before I haven’t really had a chance to talk with him. I ordered a Russian River Damnation thinking this was going to be my one beer I had and Thane and I started chatting about beer. Next thing I knew it was last call and I’d added a pint of Collaborator Brown and Cascade Defroster to the pint of Damnation. Sadly I think drinking the Damnation first was a mistake. Damnation is a great beer and set the bar high for the other two, and despite their best efforts they failed to impress me.

Thane however did. It’s a rare thing to find a competent bartender (beer wise) in this state, let alone one who knows so much about beer. It was refreshing to talk with someone who shared some of my views on beer, brewers, and the like. He was also extremely helpful. We discussed what beers he could get in if he was so inclined, what beers he did have that were awaiting taps, and his selection process. However last call comes early on a Salem week night so I had to go.

By the time I left almost all bars in Salem were closing down, or closed. I’ve always thought Salems general last call of 11 is too early. Figuring the night was over I hopped on my bike and headed towards home. As I was passing  ƒ/stop though I saw their open sign was still in the window and cars were still in the parking lot. One thing I love about ƒ/stop is that as long as Kirks still hanging around the bars still open. Nothing like a good pint with good company to end the day and start the next.

Always Learning

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of updates and all the critical posts these days. This month is move in for the clients we’ve been developing a home for. With training, meetings, plus my normal work schedule blogging has fallen by the wayside.


When I first got into homebrewing I was talking with a fellow brewer and had remarked that he knew everything about brewing. He responded with one of those cheesy you can’t know everything about brewing because your always learning comments. I knew then that what he said was true, but it never really seemed relevant until today.

When I first started this blog in February I was just starting to get serious about beer and made learning about brewing a priority. Because of this 2009 has seen huge leaps in my brewing skills and knowledge. No surprise then that when I pulled out my witches brew gruit recipe I made in February I couldn’t stop laughing. My early attempts at recipe development show my lack of knowledge about the brewing process at the beginning of this year.

Here’s what the recipe looked like when I first wrote it and brewed it

7lb light malt extract
3/4 lb Roasted Barley
1/4 lb Chocolate Malt
1/4 lb 60 Crystal Malt
1/4 lb CaraPills
1 tsp Irish Moss
2.5 oz Yarrow @ 1hr
1.5 oz Bogmyrtle @ 1hr
1 oz Sweet Gale add to fermentor
1 oz Fennel Seed @ 1 hr
Nottingham Ale Yeast

Since February I have switched from using the same light liquid malt extract for every beer to using a a few different dry extracts. I know some people think a serious homebrewer should be brewing all grain, but for my budget, equipment, and storage space malt extract works best, and with practice and knowledge you can brew really good extract based beer.

Another interesting thing is the original recipe has all the herbs being added for the full one hour boil except sweet gale. Apparently I didn’t follow my own instructions because I opened a bottle of this stuff a few weeks ago and there were some (not much though) complex herbal flavors. In those early brewing attempts my ability to get all the ingredients in the wort at the same time was limited since I was brewing highly concentrated wort in a spaghetti pot. This means some of the herbs were added, the pot became to full, I split the boil into two pots and then added the rest of the herbs. Also I didn’t have a scale at the time for measuring my ingredients, so my weights were guesstimates. Perhaps it’s better that this beer became a sour ale.

Needless to say I completely tore apart this recipe and rebuilt it from the ground up for brewing this morning. Now I just gotta pull that recipe down after I get back from yet another training/meeting.